Scheduled Reviews

Regularly Scheduled Reviews for Lasting Memory

I can remember studying hard for a test, making a good grade, but in a week or two I had forgotten nearly everything. Some students accept this as normal and don’t worry about it. They didn’t want to remember it anyway.

But, when it’s time for a semester or final exam that covers all the material, you end up needing to learn that same material again and again. And, if you take an advanced class or a class in college in the same subject, you end up needing to learn it again.

What are Scheduled Reviews?

If you have read the story of Edward Hughes, you should have notices that one strategy he used was “Scheduled Reviews.”

The idea is so simple that it’s surprising that we don’t all learn this system. It means organizing the information you are learning and using short reviews, over a schedule that you can create, in order to remember what you have learned.

Step 1. Create a Study Packet

When you first read an assignment or take notes in class (learning input), you should organize all the important information: main ideas and important facts and Girl with laptop and stack of booksvocabulary terms.

You might organize with an outline, summary, or whatever works best for the content. Edward Hughes used Mind Maps – similar to what I call Concept Maps.

With each new input information (reading or lecture) he added the information to one large and very detailed Mind Map.

I find it difficult to use a Concept Map with a lot of detailed information. A better solution might a study packet for each chapter with related lecture information. You might prefer one packet for each week or some other time period.

Bella thought about making study packets like her friends, but didn’t think she would need them. She had a good memory. Now, she is feeling frustrated as she crams for her finals. Her memory isn’t as good as she thought it was. It feels like she is learning much of this material for the first time. Her friends did a last review of their study packets and have now gone to see a movie. Bella won’t make this mistake again.

This study packet might include (design it yourself for each subject)

a. one page of words and definitions… with examples if helpful (in history this might be a list of important people or events.)

b. one Concept Map to show the structure of the chapter:  main ideas and most important details

c. one outline of the material emphasizing the main ideas and all information or other details you expect to be tested on or that you want to remember

d. any important diagrams or charts – especially important in biology classes

e. one page of questions you think are most likely to be on tests – including several essay questions on the main ideas

Put all these materials in a folder labeled with the subject and date.  Just the act of putting this study packet together will help you understand and remember the information.

With math or math related classes, you might include four or five problems a week, worked out in detail on one page, not worked on another. Review in this kind of class means doing several problems, and checking your answers. It’s easy enough to remember problem solving when you practice it regularly.

Step 2. Now that you have a study packet, USE IT.

1. A few days after putting the study packet together, take at least 15-20 minutes to go over the information.

2. A few days later, test yourself on the information. Try to recreate the Concept Map by memory. Try to re-write the outline. Test yourself on the vocabulary words. Check to see what important ideas you left out.

3. A few days later, try to answer the questions you wrote. Don’t just go over the essay questions mentally, try to write a good, well, organized essay for each questions. Save your work in the study packet.

Step 3. Continue using your Study Packet.

After your first round of reviewing the material, you can cut back to one review a week…. or whatever schedule you need to use to remember the information. At this point, you should be creating the next week’s study packet and starting to review that one. At the end of one of those review periods, add another 10-15 minutes – or whatever you need – to go back over the study packet from the previous week.

Does this sound like a lot of time? Think again. When you keep up with your study, adding new information as you go, you will be surprised to see how much you remember. When it is time for a test, one more quick review, one more practicing on writing answers to essay questions, and you’ll be prepared for the test.

  • You won’t ever need to go back and re-read the material in the textbook.
  • You won’t need to re-learn a long list of vocabulary words.
  • You won’t need to spend hours the night before the test, trying to memorize everything that might be on the test. As a result, you have really learned and understood the material.
  • You will feel less anxious about tests. Most test anxiety is due to feeling you are not well-prepared for the test.
  • You will make better grades.
  • And you might even spend less time studying because regular brief reviews are more effective than re-learning material just before a test.

Step 4. Continue your reviews still further

If the test you just took wasn’t the final you should anticipate needing to know this information on the final.  You might cut back to one review every two or three weeks, and later one a month.

Just before the final, you should do short reviews of different parts of the material every day for two weeks. Fifteen or twenty minutes a day will not disrupt your schedule. You won’t need to cram all this information back into your memory for the test, and you’ll be well-prepared.

And after the final?

If you were studying biology and plan o take advanced or AP biology later, or if you know you’ll need to take biology in college, or if you would just like to remember this information because it was interesting – then create your new schedule of reviews.  You might want to spend a few hours cutting your study packet down.  (You could also do this before the final.) What a great way to review the material.

a. Create a new vocabulary list with only the words that you still have problems with and consider most important.

b. You might want a Concept Map showing the structure of the entire course … the one main idea of the class and the many main ideas of the chapters or parts of the class. You can clump many chapters together to form a single main idea.

c. Create a single outline with the main ideas and information you will need in the next class or want to remember.

d. Keep all of your diagrams.

e. Instead of your list of essay questions, you might include some of your practice essays since they will probably be explanations of the most important concepts.

Put them in a folder and design your own review schedule.

If you are taking an advanced class next year, you should probably review the material at least once a month during the summer.

If it will be several years before you take this class in college, you might review monthly, then less often, with a good review just before taking the next class.

With many subjects, you won’t want to remember the information. That’s fine, but file away your study packet just in case you want to look through it later. With some of the material, you might want to remember it for a lifetime. If you plan to teach biology, you might really want to remember much of what you learned earlier and it is interesting to see how much the subject changed over the years.


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